If you are wondering where to meet and connect with the hip, new Latino generation of film and television right now, the answer is LA’s very own Outfest Film Festival. So get your booty over here. It runs until this Sunday, July 21. If you are not in LA, don’t sweat it, I’m on the beat, finding out about all the crazy Latino talent coming up. On the screen, and in the DGA Atrium where most after-screening receptions are being held, I got the chance this weekend to discover and meet some really fierce brown talent. I was pleased as punch to look around me and see faces and bodies epitomizing the spectrum of LA diversity on so many levels, not just “Hollywood”. Old, young, singles, couples. Sure you got your beefcake WeHo boys with jaw dropping sculpted bodies, fine ass butch and girly lesbians who look like they walked off the set of The L Word (and who I secretly wish would hit on me), and fabulous transgender artists, but what’s more exciting to behold is the plenty of ‘regular’ folks whose unquestionable magnetic air of confidence, smile and style compete for my undivided attention among this colorful crowd.
I’ll be down there all week to meet more folks and hopefully get some video and more intimate conversation regarding the stories being told. For now, lets put these three on the spotlight:
Outfest’s Opening Night film last Thursday was C.O.G which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and is directed by Cuban-American Kyle Patrick Alvarez (Easier With Practice). Its the coming out and of age story about a college boy, David (based on David Sedaris’ short story) who goes on a sabbatical like journey to spend a summer picking apples. Naturally the people he encounters on the fields are Latino. Instead of being relegated to background characters, however, Eloy Mendez plays Pedro who embodies him vividly, affecting David’s inner work in progress. I met Eloy and learned that this role has opened new doors from him, after years of working in television and film. BIG SCOOP: He will next be seen in Mike Ott’s upcoming film, Lake Los Angeles, which apparently is mostly told in Espanol! Mike is the visceral director of such festival faves as Little Rock and Pearblossom Highway. I applaud Ott’s efforts in making this film in another language, and for really exploring and mining these stories of unanchored souls caught in the greater desert mountain landscape of Los Angeles. Make sure to check out Lake Los Angeles Facebook page to find out where it will be premiering in early 2014.
Augie Robles graduated from AFI Film school, made a few short films then landed a gig on CSI which ended up being 14 years during which he sharpened his cutting skills as an editor, and became restless and eager to tell his own stories again. He recently did his editing magic on Aurora Guerero’s film, Mosquita y Mari which y’all know how I feel about. (love). He edited the film, BIG GAY LOVE which just premiered at Outfest, directed by Ringo Le and starring Jonathan Lisecki in a super sweet and tender love story about a hopeless romantic in LA who struggles to fit into LA’s lofty pressure and idealized gay man archetype. Back writing and directing his own work, Robles recently screened his short film, The Rookie and the Runner, set in Elysian Park at a number of film festivals. He also has plenty of other projects in the works, including something a la Twilight Zone ! He has a lot of technical and narrative genre skills to unleash in his own voice, and I find it really sweet that he is sharing his wealth of experience as a mentor for Outfest’s program, Outset, created to empower and educate LGBT youth(16-24) to tell their stories through film.
In a show stealing/stopping cameo in Big Gay Love, Harvey plays a kid who represents the essence of gay youth who try with all their might and ferocity every damn day to battle and defy mainstream society’s twisted dictation of what normal, perfection and beauty should look like. Encapsulating perfectly how important it is to see people like you in order to not feel alone is a bigger theme of the importance of Outfest and for that matter, a diverse representation. Harvey can next be seen in Pantelion’s luchador comedy, Aztec Warrior directed by Scott Sanders (Black Dynamite) starring Luis Guzman and gorgeous Nadine Velasquez. You might know have seen him in The Internship and on 2010 ABC Family television show, Huge. He is absolutely charming, playful and a bon vivant with a deliciously fierce streak.
REFLECTIONS OF: Outfest is truly LA’s most inclusive and community driven festival. Not just for the LGBT community but the organization picks up the slack of other festivals by embracing many underrepresented multi-ethnic voices. The AFI Festival is a wonderful showcase of international film but as an extension of the film school, it has positioned itself as a program driven for cinephile-centric and auteur platform. Meanwhile LA Film Festival certainly offers big broad fare for everyone, but also tries to inch in on AFI’s international showcase turf. Don’t get it twisted, I was really happy to see LA Film Fest screen three U.S. Latino films this year. But just think how much more impactful it would be to tap into the U.S Latino film representing the rich and underplayed walks of life AQUI in Los Angeles. Films like Water & Power, Vincent & Luzy and Pardon are really original and telling narratives with a distinct aesthetic, and all three have yet to have their official premiere even though they’ve been submitted to the festival circuit. While I don’t think its reasonable to rely on the big distributors to be the platforms of discovery for these films, I do believe that festivals on this scale have that cultural responsibility, or at least it should behoove them to do so. An often heard comment that I take issue with is that a film has to be ‘good enough’ to show at these festivals. Every film is imperfect so this does not hold agua with me when we are talking about the discovery and expanding of marginalized voices. I previously reported that The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival has announced it is currently taking submissions after its sudden shutter last year. There is no doubt there is a sizable hungry audience and community for these films, and filmmakers who want their films to be seen by them, so even though its bewildering to me that LALIFF does’t have their festival dates set yet, I’ve a feeling they will still be looked to as the last beacon and chance for the array of Latino filmmakers and stories in LA trying to emerge through the bottleneck.